What is cerebral palsy anyway?

Posted on 03 August 2015 by

You’re chatting to someone on the internet and they mention they have cerebral palsy. What assumptions do you make?

Does this mean they use a wheelchair? Do they experience spasms or communicate differently?

In fact, there’s not much you can assume, because the term cerebral palsy refers to a range of disorders that can affect people in different ways. Basically, cerebral palsy occurs when there is injury  to the brain during development, either during pregnancy or soon after birth.

Depending on which parts of the brain were affected, a child or adult with cerebral palsy could experience a range of different effects. Typically, cerebral palsy affects movement in one or more limbs. This can include stiff and tight muscles, shaky movements, difficulty with balance, or involuntary movements.

Cerebral palsy can also cause a range of other impairments, including difficulty learning or thinking through problems, vision impairment, and difficulty with speech. The bottom line is cerebral palsy is very individual.

In Australia:

  • over 22,000 people have cerebral palsy
  • 4 in 10 are under 15
  • 8 in 10 require assistance with mobility, self-care, or communication
  • 1 in 10 use an electric wheelchair
  • 3 in 10 use a manual wheelchairs
  • 1 in 20 use a walking frame, stick, or crutches
  • 1 in 10 use an electronic communication device 


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